Baby. This has, unsurprisingly, been very much at the forefront of my consciousness of late. Not necessarily anything specific, just Baby.
All things considered, I’ve been dealing with the impending changes pretty well, making sure that things are in good shape ahead of time. I have occasional moments of Eep, particularly when there are new developments – sharper contractions and the like. And I know that at this point, most events are going to be in the ‘new developments’ category. So there will probably be a little more Eep to come.
I can’t say I’m completely unconcerned – I sometimes wonder about the what-ifs. What if there are complications during childbirth and something happens to either D or to the baby. I can comfort myself with statistics showing how unlikely it is that any given thing will happen, and with the knowledge that so far there’s been no indication of anything negative, but such questions do still flit across my mind. I want to be prepared for absolutely everything, and not all of it can realistically fit in my head – or anyone’s.
The idea of being a parent is also a little daunting at times. I wouldn’t go so far as to say scary, but definitely daunting. There’s a lot that I don’t know – indeed, that I can’t know – and a lot of situations to come wherein I will have to make on-the-spot decisions about what’s OK and what’s not, things where I won’t have time to Google things and do a bunch of research. Sometimes I worry about missing ‘firsts’. First steps, first tooth, first words… so many things that I feel duty-bound to be there for, and I worry that it’ll happen when I’m not there – even if I’m just taking a shower or something. I can handle things like feedings and diaper changes and so on, but missing a ‘first’ would make me feel terrible.
I don’t have as much as I would like in the way of a frame of reference for fatherhood. My Dad is a wonderful guy, but in order to make sure the family could have everything they needed, he worked long hours and traveled a lot. There were school events that he missed, there were times when I’d have liked to have him there and he wasn’t. The gift of a new toy at the end of his being away for three weeks in Japan was a neat thing at the time, but in the long run it didn’t make up for him not being there. Nowadays, I understand why he worked the long hours, and I have nothing but respect for his dedication to keeping food on the table and allowing us the luxuries we enjoyed, but I don’t want to short my son on Dad-time to do the same. I want to know that I can be there for everything, and still not neglect other responsibilities like working. If he plays in a Little League game, I want to be sitting in the bleachers cheering him on with all the passion of being at an England soccer game at Wembley Stadium, and yet with that much more because That’s My Kid Out There. If he’s in a school play or playing kiddie songs in a piano recital, I want to be there enjoying it like the greatest Broadway show, and yet that much more because That’s My Kid Up There.
I want to be able to guide him through the traps and pitfalls of growing up, and find a balance whereby I’m not overbearing and making him resent that I’m not letting him do things for himself. I want to keep him safe from injury, but not deny him the right to go out and climb a tree with his friends if he so wishes. I want to show him that I’m proud of him without embarrassing him by making too big a deal of things. I want to allow him to push his limits and be experimental, and yet watch like a hawk for anything that might be bad for him. I want him to succeed, but I don’t want to push him so hard that he ends up hating me for it.
Ultimately, what this amounts to is that I feel like I’m walking a tightrope, but he’s the one who’s going to fall off if I lose my footing. And logically I know I can’t do everything, that there will be some mistakes and missed opportunities, some things I’ll say or do that I wish I could take back, some times when there’s a right thing I could say or do and I don’t. Every parent has moments like those, and it’s not realistic to expect that I won’t. But I still want everything to be perfect, because That’s My Kid In There, and this is not something I can get a do-over on.
Basically… I want to be a great Dad. Not just an OK Dad, or even just a good Dad, but a great Dad. And I fully believe I have it in me to be that, but I worry about goofing it up. I also want to continue to be as good a husband, friend and employee as I can be, as applicable, without that taking away from Dadness.
Those of you reading this who are parents are probably chuckling at this point, and have probably all felt this way and wanted everything to be perfect. And each and every one of you seems to be a great parent. I just want to be sure I can be a part of that too.